On the back of my numerous rambling away day reports which I share with you all on this very blog, I was chuffed to bits to receive an email a few weeks back from the editorial team of ‘Jack Swan’ magazine – which some of you may be familiar with.
‘Jack Swan’ is a free Swans related magazine which is distributed at over 100 pubs in and around the Swansea area and contains lots of Swans information, articles and interviews with past players. It’s even got a review section featuring pubs that show the Swans away games!!
Anyway, they liked the reports on the Swans away trips I’d done and wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing an article for them about why – apart from the obvious reason – I go to watch so many Swans away games.
I happily obliged and here is part 1 of the article – which you can also read in the current issue of the magazine if you haven’t already!
Thinking back to one particularly cold October evening in 1980, I now realise that this was the night that a very special relationship started, a love, a passion and something which I didn’t know at the time would lead to one a lifelong bond between myself and Swansea City football club.
Why was this night so special? Well it was the first Swans game I ever saw. Sat in the lofty heights of the old double decker stand at the Vetch with my Dad, I witnessed the 3 nil walloping of the mighty Oldham Athletic in the then old Division Two. From that night on, there was no turning back for this 9 year old.
With this new found ‘toy’ came a desire and an appetite to watch Tosh’s super Swans as often as possible, but my Dad’s job (long distance lorry driver) and a lack of money meant times were hard and we had to pick and choose our games carefully.
Having sealed promotion to the top flight in 1981, the Swans became a regular feature on ‘Match of the Day’ and ITV’s equivalent ‘The Big Match’ (anyone remember Brian Moore?). The TV coverage merely served to fuel my desire of watching the Swans further – wherever they might have been.
By the time my grampa had bought me the ‘Guide to British Football Grounds’ book as a 10th birthday present, I was well versed in the names of most – if not all – football league grounds across the country. This was in-part due to those old legendary school yard favourites – ‘Shoot’ magazine and Panini football stickers.
Bizarrely however, my first visit to a ground other than the Vetch Field, wasGoodisonPark, the home of Everton. Why I hear you cry? Well quite simply, Everton was my Dad’s team and as much as he wanted the Swans to do well, he also wanted his son to see his beloved Toffees too.
Looking back I distinctly remember being in awe at the sheer size of the ground, the vast crowds and how clean and tidy it all was compared to the Vetch! Despite all the excitement and witnessing an exciting one all draw (as exciting as draws get!), deep down I desperately wanted to watch the Swans play at grounds like this.
So from that January day in 1982, I vowed to my parents (as only a 10 year old boy does) to visit each and every one of the 92 football league grounds to watch the boys in black and white. To this day, that quest is still on-going.
Little did I know back then, that I’d have to wait until 22nd October 1986 for my 92 club tour to begin… at Peterborough United in a Division 4 league game. I can’t think for the life of me why we chose that game to start – especially in midweek!
Those of you whom have been to London Road will be familiar with the away terrace – which can best be compared to the old Wing Stand terrace at the Vetch, which also used to house the away fans (in the days before it became the Jewson Family stand).
The only other things I can recollect from this glamorous away trip were Sean McCarthy’s penalty (in a game we drew 1-1), a paltry away following of 53 (yes I counted them) and getting back home at around 3am in the morning – via a taxi from Neath.
They say you have to go through the bad to appreciate the good in life, and I guess in terms of losing my Swans away day virginity, this was about as bleak as it could get.
To be continued…
‘Jack Swan’ is available in all good and not-so-good pubs in Swansea and surrounding areas 🙂